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Rhythms of Grace: How the Church's Worship Tells the Story of the Gospel (Inglês) Capa Comum – 31 mar 2013
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“I have read and heard preached a ton on the reality that ‘all of life is worship.’ It is and I wouldn’t want to argue that point, but what about when the covenant people of God gather together? Are there not some ways God desires us to worship corporately that can differ from how we worship in ‘all of life’? Mike has served the church well with Rhythms of Grace. I was both convicted and compelled as I read it.”
―Matt Chandler, Lead Pastor, The Village Church, Dallas, Texas; President, Acts 29 Church Planting Network; author, The Mingling of Souls and The Explicit Gospel
“Mike Cosper is uniquely gifted as both a musician and a pastor to speak into the culture where art and church meet and mesh. This is an important book for folks thinking about what it is to be a musician, a worship leader, and everything in between. The historic question of how we worship on Sunday and with our lives is an important one to keep asking because the songs we sing have the power to shape who we are and who we will become as individuals and as a community.”
―Sandra McCracken, singer-songwriter
“Years ago, A. W. Tozer remarked that worship was the missing jewel of the evangelical church. Since that time, evangelicals have been engaged in an urgent and sometimes feverish struggle to determine the nature of true biblical worship. In Rhythms of Grace, Mike Cosper takes us back to first principles and roots his understanding of worship deeply within the context of the Christian gospel. This is a book that will offer much to Christians and church leaders seeking to understand worship. It is both biblical and deeply practical, and it is written by an author who has deep experience in the worship life of a thriving and faithful congregation.”
―R. Albert Mohler Jr., President, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary
“Mike’s Rhythms of Grace was like sitting across the table from someone you need to be listening to. In this season of the Church, there is some confusion on why and what a worship leader is and does. This book brings great clarity to that confusion. As someone who aims to see song leaders become worship leaders and worship leaders become worship pastors, I found this to be a key read. This will be an important piece in training new leaders, and a great reminder to more seasoned leaders, to sing the gospel and above all, highlight Jesus.”
―Charlie Hall, Worship and Liturgy Pastor, Frontline Church, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
“I know of no one more insightful on questions of worship than Mike Cosper, and I know of no one more gifted to articulate a Christ-focused, Kingdom-directed, Spirit-driven sense of what it means to worship in the presence of the triune God. Read this book and see if it does not drive you to re-pattern your worship to fit the full rejoicing, lamenting, raging force of the biblical adoration of the triune God.”
―Russell D. Moore, President, The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission
“When Mike Cosper writes, I read. And even though I'm not a pastor and don't play the guitar, I learned a lot from him about how the gospel of grace shapes our rhythms of congregational worship. Pick up this book and benefit from his biblical wisdom and pastoral experience.”
―Collin Hansen, Editorial Director, the Gospel Coalition; author, Blind Spots
“This book challenges worship leaders not merely to announce a gospel of grace in Jesus Christ, but to begin to discover how that gospel reshapes every dimension and element of worship. It invites readers into a world where theology and practice, belief and action are intimately intertwined―where every practice reflects and then reinforces a theological vision, and every doctrine both grounds and sharpens practices. Who better to offer this challenge and invitation than a reflective practitioner who considers it a joy to discern the implications of this gospel of grace for a host of practical concerns, week by week, year by year?”
―John D. Witvliet, Director, Professor, Calvin Institute of Christian Worship, Calvin College and Calvin Theological Seminary
“The story of the Gospel is one that must be emphasized again and again in worship. In Rhythms of Grace, Mike Cosper outlines the narrative of our hope, the order of our praise and importance of our worship to every gathering of believers.”
―Ed Stetzer, Billy Graham Distinguished Chair of Church, Mission, and Evangelism, Wheaton College
“I can’t overstate my excitement about Mike Cosper’s new book, Rhythms of Grace. This practical volume represents the many years my good friend has spent in serious theological reflection, doxological engagement, and faithful service in the Body of Christ―at Sojourn Church and well beyond. Mike’s passion for God’s glory and God’s worship are evidenced on every page. In particular, I’m thankful for how Mike helps us plan our services of worship in light of the history of redemption and the riches of God’s grace. Liturgy isn’t a four-letter word; it’s the storyboard, which helps us connect with God’s commitment to redeem people, places and things, through the person and work of Jesus. I will use Mike’s tremendous book in the seminary classes I teach on worship; but I will also place it in the hands of seasoned worship leaders and young congregants alike. Thanks dear brother, for your art and heart!”
―Scotty Ward Smith, Pastor Emeritus, Christ Community Church, Franklin, Tennessee; Teacher in Residence, West End Community Church, Nashville, Tennessee
“The greatest composers are gifted synthesizers. They have the ability to weave what they’ve heard and learned and experienced in the past into their own musical story. If Rhythms of Grace were a symphony, the critics would hail it as a masterful work of synthesis―a fusion of biblical, historical, cultural and philosophical elements into an engaging, challenging and thoughtful treatment of worship. At the end of this work, you’ll also be able to sing the primary thematic motive―the gospel of Jesus Christ.”
―Joseph Crider, Senior Associate Dean, School of Church Ministries, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary
“For the glory and enjoyment of God, the health of the church, and the spread of the gospel―this is why you should read Rhythms of Grace, by Mike Cosper. Inside this book Mike proves to be a good pastor giving us a practical theology of worship that cautions against and corrects error, while shepherding us toward a more biblically faithful understanding and experience of worship in the church gathered and scattered.”
―Joe Thorn, author, Note to Self: The Discipline of Preaching to Yourself; Lead Pastor, Redeemer Fellowship, St. Charles, Illinois
“An important contribution to the discussion among many younger evangelicals about worship and liturgy. Mike writes with grace, and a wisdom beyond his years. Frankly, I am amazed by the amount of ground he manages to cover! Mike introduces many to ideas and thinkers that all in the evangelical world should know. Mike has set a lofty goal, painting a picture of liturgy as a beautiful way, and I believe he succeeds. For anyone nervous about exploring the world of liturgy, Mike is a gentle and wise companion.”
―Kevin Twit, Campus Minister, RUF; Founder, Indelible Grace Music
“Mike Cosper has written a book that is both easily accessible and also deeply challenging for anyone who wants to see worship flourish in their congregation. Rhythms of Grace is a must-read―especially for church musicians and pastors who desire to deepen in their understanding of how worship shapes and forms individuals and communities.”
―Isaac Wardell, Founder, Bifrost Arts
“For many churches, having a well thought out approach to how to lead music is woefully lacking. This needs to change, and this book will surely help. Rhythms of Grace will be a book that I will rely on in the future to develop music leaders for our church and the churches we plant. Clear, beautifully written, theologically grounded yet very practically helpful, and completely gospel-centered―this is a book for pastors and music leaders alike. In fact, I would get two copies so that pastors and musicians can read it together!”
―Zach Nielson, Pastor, The Vine Church
Sobre o Autor
Mike Cosper is the director of the Harbor Institute for Faith and Culture, where he works to create resources for Christians living in a post-Christian world. Prior to that, he was a founding pastor at Sojourn Community Church in Louisville, Kentucky, where he served for sixteen years as the pastor of worship and arts.
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Cosper provides an excellent introduction into the wise art of corporate worship. He tells us that we gather to be reminded of God's grace in the Gospel by how we worship together. That's right -- not in what we sing or what we preach, but how we worship. Cosper has taken a wealth of the proven wisdom of history and argued for congregational worship to be formed so that participants are shaped by the Gospel.
He starts with four chapters that scan the storyline of history: Triune God, Creation, Fall, Law, Christ, Consummation. These chapters sing. They should not be skipped.
He argues that this is the story in which believers live. And that this is the story which God reminds us of when we gather to worship. We do not come to have God fit into our story, but for God to write us in as actors in his great purpose of redemption.
What follows is a careful argument for ordered congregational worship. He is fully aware of the diverse prejudices and objections that are offered, and answers them all in a compelling and gracious way. He walks through some of the issues of the worship wars, the seeker service, and the contextualization of worship for our day. He rightly insists that how we worship shapes the lives of the congregation. He insists as well that pastors are responsible not merely to sing good lyrics and preach good sermons but to make sure that the order of worship forms people with the Gospel shape.
This book cuts against the grain of expressive individualism, "hang out" membership, and light show worship experiences. It moves us past stylistic debates. It looks behind worship as catharsis to worship as a pattern of living in the Gospel, learning to draw near to God through the true worship leader and sacrifice, Jesus Christ. He thinks that when people leave the congregational worship time, they should leave both encouraged and formed by the liturgy. We learn prayer and worship by practice, and the order of worship is practice not just experience.
I think every pastor should ask -- what does how we worship teach our people? Does it teach them to pray? Does it make personal worship easier by giving a form or less accessible unless that have a powerful band? Does it orient them to God, his greatness and glory, their own standing before him, the glorious hope of the Gospel, access to God in prayer, the preached word and sacraments?
This work is accessible -- a great introduction to be followed up with the reading he suggests. I found the examples of liturgy at the end most helpful. They show that proven wisdom in worship leading can be faithfully expressed in contemporary forms.
SIZE: 223 pages. Just 10 chapters and 3 Appendices. I read through the whole thing in 2 days, and again more slowly over the course of several weeks.
WHAT'S THE BIG IDEA?
The gospel is all about worship - once broken by sin - restored in Jesus. Worship, whether scattered or gathered, is all about rehearsing the gospel story, and being shaped by it.
Amazingly Mike starts not by defining worship. Instead, for the first 4 chapters he walks the reader through how the Bible describes worship - from Eden, the wilderness, in Israel, and then in Jesus (biblical theology).
Chapter 5 is the clincher where Mike unpacks the "Worship 1-2-3″ paradigm he uses to summarise what worship means for the local church (first described in this interview - [...] Basically, worship has one object (the Triune God), two contexts (gathered and scattered), and three audiences (God himself, the gathered church, and the watching world). With this paradigm, Mike shows how many of our disagreements about worship comes from overemphasising one of these aspects. For example:
"You'll find that many of the heated battles of the worship wars erupt when these categories get confused. For instance, the well-intentioned seeker-sensitive movement seems to have lost sight of the church as an audience in worship (and a crucial one). Those who would rather lie in bed and watch The Masters on Sunday have lost sight of the call to gather with God's church. Those who compartmentalize their "church" life from their hellish "secular" life forget that they are living sacrifices, and all of life is an act of worship. (p.86)"
Chapters 6-8 focuses more on defining and fleshing out gathered worship as spiritual formation, as historically rooted in the story of the church, as an opportunity to rehearse the gospel story (he terms it "rhythms of grace", hence the title). Chapters 9-10 address singing as worship, and the pastoral responsibility of planning and leading worship.
The appendices are also helpful as they include sample service orders from a few different churches, a list of recommended resources, and a discussion about audio/sound engineering in gathered worship (with a rocket of an anecdote in it!).
EASY TO READ?
Yes for me. Mike writes creatively, and spins wonderful prose throughout the book to describe and explain the nature of true worship, and to answer questions about it.
If you're not a worship leader or church musician some of the terms and references may be a bit new, as Mike assumes the reader is aware of things like "worship wars" and other in-house concepts. But he does try to explain each new term as it comes up, and his storytelling style is definitely easier to digest than the more academic styles of Bryan Chappell, DA Carson and David Peterson.
WHAT I APPRECIATED
I finished this book loving Jesus - our true worship leader - more, and inspired to press on in retelling the gospel story when we gather as a church.
Reading the first four chapters of the book is biblical theology at its breathtaking best, imaginatively told and left me (numerous times) grateful for God's redemptive plan throughout history. If that's where the book ended, it would already have been a worthwhile read!
When tackling more contentious issues of musical style, sound, vision etc. Mike has a gracious tone coupled with a rapier wit that leaves you embarrassed to disagree with him, and appreciative of the wisdom he's curated from many helpful thinkers. I particularly appreciated:
- his great explanation of John 4:24′s worship in Spirit and in Truth"
- his critique of the Temple Model of worship planning (leading people into the throne room of God in music)
- his appeal for worship planning and leading to be seen as a pastoral task.
- his appeal for repetition and using non-singing elements in gathered worship (e.g. prayers, creeds, readings)
Most churches lack any real theology for worship, and most church leaders don't know why the church is gathering, and what the goal is. Mike gives a concise yet thorough primer, rooted in Scripture and history, to answer all this. He doesn't answer every question in-depth, and you don't get a stand-alone, one-sentence definition of worship. But after reading this book you'll definitely understand worship from a more biblical, gospel-centred, historically-rooted and theologically grounded perspective.
WHO I'D RECOMMEND IT TO:
Anyone remotely interested in what we should do when we gather as Christians, especially worship leaders. This is one of those 10 out of 10 books that I wish I had read when I first started out serving in music ministry. I'd rate it even higher than books like Worship Matters and Worship by the Book, just because I think it's a more accessible read and is so gospel-saturated.
"The story of worship as told in the Bible defines worship in a radically different and surprising way. It's a story that surprises us because we discover that it doesn't primarily feature us. The star of the story is God, who is at the center of all worship but is also at its origins in history and its origins in our hearts. The story of worship (like the story of the gospel) is all about God."
"The story of God and Israel is the story of God and us. The bleary hope sung by the patriarchs became a tearful slave song in Egypt, and in the deserts on the other side of the Red Sea another movement of the song began. "God lives with Israel" was the title of the movement. Its rhythms were carved into the flesh of lambs and goats, punctuated by a river of blood flowing out of the temple and shouts of "glory, hallelujah" as the divine presence filled the tabernacle."
"Like the beautiful movement of Psalm 22, the longing of the patriarchs, the weary blues of the wilderness, and the tear-filled lament of the exiles find themselves resolving into a glorious celebration hymn in the life, work, and song of Jesus. That's the story of worship: God creates, sin corrupts, but Christ redeems. And all of us get to sing along."
On gathered worship:
"Harold Best puts it like this: "We do not go to church to worship. But as continuing worshipers, we gather ourselves together to continue our worship but now in the company of brothers and sisters.""
""Speaking the truth in love" is not so much about interpersonal boldness as it is about a community that shares a confession, a unified expression of faith in the God who saved them. The gathered body teaches the Word and proclaims it together; we speak the truth in love as we sing, read the Scriptures, and remember the gospel together."
"...the gathering is unique not as an encounter with God (it is that, though God's presence is a constantly available comfort and help to the Christian); rather it's unique because it is an encounter with the people of God, filled with the Spirit of God, spurring one another along in the mission of God. Christ in me meets Christ in you."
"We gather because we have work to do. Ekklēsia emphasizes the work of the people. We gather to do our work, which is to say, we gather to remember, to encourage, and to spur one another on."
On musical styles and preferences:
"So let's all acknowledge this fact: for better or worse, our worship, regardless of our tradition or musical style or culture, is shaping the hearts and minds of our congregations. We are always teaching, shaping, and painting a picture of what the Christian life looks like. It's in this light that we should evaluate our gatherings. What are we saying about "normal" Christianity? How do our services reflect the way the gospel changes our perspective on the world? What are we saying to those who suffer? To the poor? The rich? Those who are like us? Those who are unlike us?"
"My friend Isaac Wardell... asks whether we think of gathered worship as being more like a concert hall or a banquet hall. If it's a concert hall, we show up as passive observers and critics, eager to have the itches of our preferences and felt needs scratched. A banquet hall, by contrast, is a communal gathering. We come hungry and in community, ready to participate and share the experience with one another."
On worship wars:
"Whoever dubbed the debate over musical style a "worship war" failed to realize that worship is always a war. The declaration that there is one God, that his name is Jesus, and that he has died, has risen, and will come again is an all-out assault on the saviors extended at every level of culture around us."
"Every hymn of praise is a little anti-idolatry campaign. . . . When we sing "Praise God, from whom all blessings flow," we are also saying "Down with the gods from whom no blessings flow.""
"Today, when many worship services are reduced to preaching and music, it becomes very easy to equate music with worship--and that's a dangerous slope to park your car on. If music is worship, then when you mess with someone's musical preferences, you threaten their access to God. No wonder the debates become so heated."
"We need to remember that the hymn tradition, with its strict melodies and unity of voice, is but one stream of congregational song. There are other cultural traditions and other ways of participating in singing with the church."
"The rock ensemble is part and parcel of our culture. It's how people celebrate, and I don't think it's going away any time soon. So go ahead and use it, but don't let it rule the gathering. Pull the band out for a song or two, leave choruses open so that voices can be heard. Train your musicians to restrain, restrain, restrain. If your church isn't singing, you're doing it wrong."
VERDICT: Must read for pastors, worship leaders, musicians, anyone involved on Sunday morning. Good to read for all Christians.
After reading "Rhythms of Grace," I can say it was all I thought it would be and more. Not only does Mike share his thoughts on music ministry in the church, but he gives a concise history of worship in the church. This book was both educational and practical. His balanced approach to some of the "hottest" topics in the current "Worship wars" is insightful and helpful.
Rhythms of Grace gave me a framework to assist me in planning worship services that proclaim the gospel to Christians and non-Christians alike. It will be a resource that I will continually go back to in teaching others and in my personal ministry work. I'm thankful for this resource and appreciate Mike Cosper's thoughtful and pastoral approach to music ministry in the church.
I am planning on purchasing copies for my pastor and our worship team; I would urge anyone involved in local church ministry to do the same.